#30 Baylor Baseball Preview

Baylor Bears

Overall Rank: #30
Conference Rank: #4 Big 12
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Last year was a banner season for the Baylor baseball team, even though it missed out on a Big 12 Conference tournament championship. The Bears qualified for the postseason for the 18th time in school history and advanced to the NCAA super-regional round for the first time since 2005. In the end, two losses to Arkansas after a series-opening win cost Baylor a chance at the College World Series, but the Bears tasted some tournament success and found the meal was pretty good. Will they come back for seconds?

2012: 49-17, 20-4
2012 Postseason: NCAA tournament (Super Regional)
Coach: Steve Smith

Field Players:
Baylor will have a bit of a problem to start the season as it lost its four top hitters. Josh Ludy hit .362 a year ago with 16 home runs and 71 runs batted in, even more impressive when you consider that came in 63 games. Logan Vick, a .345-4-43 hitter with 19 stolen bases, had one more year remaining but chose to sign with the Cleveland Indians, who selected him in the 11th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Dan Evatt also graduated and took his .329-8-30 stats with him. The top four hitters are gone, but outfielder Nathan Orf is back for another season. Orf hit .303-2-31 with 17 stolen bases, suggesting a lack of power but decent average and speed. Infielder Lawton Langford (.301, seven steals last year) also returns. Cal Towey, Adam Toth and Jake Miller are also back, leaving the Bears with five of their top nine hitters returning from 2012.

Josh Turley and Trent Blank, who combined for a 20-2 overall record, 46 walks and 140 strikeouts, have left Baylor. Tyler Bremer (7-1, 2.62) is also gone, leaving one big question: Who will pitch for this team? Brad Kuntz (4-2, 4.20 ERA) started five games last year and struck out 40 hitters. Crayton Bare (2-0, 1.25) could be a darkhorse candidate in relief, just like Ryan Smith (3-1, 3.14) could be a decent candidate to start. Austin Stone (3-1, 4.60) also returns. Whoever takes this team by the reins could easily be the No. 1 starter during the 2013 season, but so far no major player has stepped forward.

Who to Watch:
With a lot of departures on the team, anyone left could be considered as someone to watch (presumably to help Baylor out of the hole it might dig). That said, Orf was Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2012 and the mere fact that he is back is big news. Look for Orf to lead the Bears as they navigate the rigors of the Big 12 and non-conference schedule.

Final Projection:
There will be some pullback for Baylor. You don’t lose your four  top hitters and two top pitchers and get away with another season of near 50 victories. Baylor won’t regress too far back into the conference picture, but the odds of the Bears winning a championship are a lot more difficult than last season. Still, if the team can find one or two home-run hitters to go with all that speed and groom a pitcher, look for 40-45 victories. More likely the Bears will win 35-40 games and earn a tournament berth.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Nathan Orf, OF, 234; Jake Miller, IF, 234
Hits: Nathan Orf, OF, 71
Home Runs: Cal Towey, 3B/OF, 6
RBIs: Cal Towey, 3B/OF, 51
Runs: Nathan Orf, OF, 61
Stolen Bases: Adam Toth, OF, 18

Wins: Tyler Bremer, P, 7
Innings Pitched: Tyler Bremer, P, 58.2
Strikeouts: Tyler Bremer, P, 50
Saves: Max Garner, P, 10


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